WASHINGTON – Kevin can wait. But for how long?
The House of Representatives convened again Wednesday to begin a second day of voting for a new speaker after failing to put Republican leader Rep.-elect Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in the role over three consecutive ballots a day earlier.
While most Republicans in the new majority supported McCarthy, a hard core of 20 from the far-right House Freedom Caucus held up the vote by opting instead for Rep.-elect Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) – who doesn’t even want the job.
“The pro-McCarthy side, there’s anger out there right now,” Rep.-elect Don Bacon (R-Neb.) told reporters after the House adjourned Tuesday. “There’s the chaos caucus, the Taliban 19, Taliban 20 … There’s anger because we negotiated in good faith and gave a lot more than we ever wanted.”
A former House leadership aide involved in anti-McCarthy maneuvering told The Post the plan was to continue to block McCarthy and House Majority Whip-designate Steve Scalise (R-La.) from becoming speaker until both men removed themselves from consideration for the post. At that point, the floor would be thrown open to nominations until a compromise conservative candidate emerged.
However, a pro-McCarthy source pushed back, saying the GOP leader “ain’t budging” and planned on “staying in until he’s elected.”
Jordan on Tuesday nominated McCarthy for the speakership on the second of the three ballots in an apparent bid to quell the Republican revolt. But Rep.-elect Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) – one of the leaders of the so-called “Never Kevin Caucus” – nominated Jordan anyway, calling him “humble to a fault.”
“Sometimes we have to do jobs that we don’t really want to do. And sometimes we have to do jobs that we are called to do,” Gaetz said. “Maybe the right person for the speaker of the House isn’t someone who wants it so bad.”
McCarthy received 202 votes by the end of the third round of voting on Tuesday, making Rep.-elect Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) technically the closest to securing the speakership as all 212 Democrats in the House voted for him.
It remained unclear Wednesday morning how long the chaos would last as members must continue holding votes until a nominee receives a majority of voice votes. If all members continue to vote for a named candidate, it will take 218 votes to secure a speaker.
However, if members choose instead not to vote or mark themselves “present,” the vote-tally threshold would shrink.
Because that’s the only way around the need for 218 votes, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said Tuesday that Gaetz asked her on the House floor whether any Democrats were considering making a deal with McCarthy to drop out of the vote to lower the threshold.
“[We sent] the message that we were united and that there would be no defections, that Democrats are here, we are not going anywhere – and if they want to play ball, we are open to that,” the “Squad” member said on MSNBC.